The United States boasts over 3000 independent wineries, with at least one in each of the 50 states. The vast majority reside in California, and along with it the West Coast States of Oregon and Washington comprise over 92% of all wine production in the country. That being said, Griffy on Wine has established that there are great wines being produced in places like Virginia, New York, Tennessee, and Texas. Today, we’re going to add New Hampshire to the list, with a Marechal Foch from Jewell Towne Vineyards.
I first came across Jewell Towne wine at The Naughty Vine wine shoppe in Claremont, NH, and had the pleasure of visiting the South Hampton vineyard this past October. Located right on the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border, Jewell Towne is situated about 20 minutes from the Atlantic Coast. It has the distinction of being the oldest vineyard in the state.
The story of Jewell Towne begins with six vines in 1982. An emergency department physician named Dr. Peter Oldak, who would eventually plant 60 different varieties to find the best grapes for New Hampshire’s cool summers and harsh winters. Dr. Oldak and his wife Brenda, a clinical nursing specialist, would establish Jewell Towne Vineyards in 1990, and would be officially licensed as a commercial winery in 1994.
While the state only has a little over a dozen commercial wineries and distilleries, Jewell Towne has set itself apart as the best, boasting victories in six of the last nine state wine competitions. They produce nearly 6,000 cases of assorted red, white, and ice wines annually out of their New England-style post and beam barn facility. I enjoyed their Zinfandel, Aurora, and Cayuga varietals, but easily the most drinkable was the Marechal Foch.
The Marechal Foch is a hybrid grape originally developed after the first World War in Alsace, France. The grapes are fast-maturing, usually ready for harvest in Early September, and are cold weather hearty, making them excellent for growth in upper New England. Smaller fruit size does make them susceptible to birds and other small animals, but a good yield produces a wonderfully fruit-forward wine.
Popping the cork you’re greeted by black fruit and a slightly bready aroma. Think of the fragrance of blackberry preserves over toast. While Marechal Foch wines can run the range from a bright garnet red to a deep inky purple, my bottle from Jewell Towne was in the middle, though probably leaning more towards the lighter end of the spectrum. As I mentioned earlier, this is a fruitbomb-esque wine, with waves of wild berries splashing on the palate. It’s an off-dry wine by description, but I’d put it as a sweet wine as it does not come across as heavily oaked.
One criticism I have on this vineyard, however, is that the wines are a hit-it and quit-it experience. After the initial wave of flavor draws you in, there is very little by way of finish. Still, for an oft-overlooked grape, the Jewell Towne Marechal Foch is well worth the investment at $10. If you don’t live in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, you’ll need to contact a friend for a bottle, though some select states can order online.